City Council: Vote NO on Ordinance 2929 – making non-mask wearing a petty misdemeanor


City Council: Vote NO on Ordinance 2929 – making non-mask wearing a petty misdemeanor

This petition made change with 2,256 supporters!
Kelly Bloomfield started this petition to Las Cruces City Councilor Yvonne Flores and

On Friday, June 5, 2020,  the Las Cruces City Council will vote on Ordinance 2929.  Community members who fail to obey the ordinance could be arrested and charged with a petty misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500 or up to 90 days in jail. City council has made clear that they don't intend for police to enforce the punishments of this law, but instead intend for police to use this as an outreach/educational opportunity between the police and the community.  As such, it is entirely inappropriate and unnecessary for this to be enacted as an ordinance.  An ordinance with no teeth is not an ordinance.  It's a resolution.  We ask that, instead of passing this as an ordinance, it be passed as a resolution.  This would remove the need for an answer to the punitive aspect and would also remove the police from the middle of situations where they are at increased risk.

Las Cruces Chief of Police, Patrick Gallagher, outlined many reasons why the ordinance would create an undue burden on his police force:

1) Further straining police-community relations by making our officers the “mask police” at a time when the entire country is in upheaval over distrust between community members and law enforcement.

2) Adding an additional enforcement burden to officers in a department that already understaffed and running at only 80-90% of its staffing capacity.

3) Risking the officer’s and suspect’s physical safety when the officer unknowingly confronts a person with mental and/or behavioral issues.

4) Risking the escalation of a situation in which someone refuses to wear a mask, and possibly resulting in arrest and/or injuries to both the suspect and officer.

5) The increased risk of police officers contracting COVID-19 from unnecessary interactions with the public.  This not only poses a physical health risk for police officers, but also the added challenges that would come to the individual officers and the police force as a whole because of necessary quarantine for both officers and their families if they should come in contact with an infected person.

6) Clogging our already overloaded justice system, which is already under intense strain to deal with serious crime because of the shuttering of courtrooms, with mask citations. 

After hearing these reasons from the Police Chief, several council members suggested that all these concerns could be mitigated by giving the officers the discretion to determine when they would enforce the ordinance with a citation and when they wouldn’t.  The City Attorney, Jennifer Vega-Brown, advised the Council and Mayor that the ordinance must be applied equally in every situation so that it was constitutionally sound.  If the officers pick and choose when to enforce the ordinance, they would be opening the city up to lawsuits, including allegations of racial profiling, because of unequal application of the law.  The cost of any lawsuits would have to be paid from a tax base which has shrunken considerably because of the recent shuttering of our local economy. Most of the City Counselors were clearly planning to ignore this legal advice as well.

All these enforcement and legal problems would go away if the City would simply let the Governor’s order requiring face coverings in all businesses and public areas of the state to stand without adding additional layers of law.  

One counselor suggested that perhaps the City’s ordinance would mitigate the State’s penalty for noncompliance, which has a higher fine and longer jail time. It is incredibly irresponsible of the City Council to pretend that any enforcement involving fines and jail time for not wearing a mask in public is altruistic. 

When the Chief of Police, who will be affected by this ordinance more than anyone, gives his professional opinion that this mask ordinance is dangerous for the community and the police force and the City Council immediately dismiss his valid, informed concerns, along with the legal concerns raised by the City Attorney, they are no longer serving the community that elected them.   

We hope this petition will result in the Councilors submitting themselves to the people they serve and the Chief of Police who protects this community.  We request that the Council pass their mask directive in the form of a special resolution, instead of an ordinance, thereby freeing the Las Cruces police from the burden of enforcement and community members from additional fear.  

In the previous city council meeting, Councilor Bencomo stated, “People are demanding to reopen and to not wear a mask. That is just so interesting to me.”  Ms. Bencomo is sorely mistaken.  Most of our community members are wearing them willingly as an act of caution.  Some of us wear the mask, not because we believe it will slow the spread, but because it helps others around us less fearful in a time when fear abounds.  Some of us wear the mask because we have underlying health conditions that put us at an increased risk should we catch the virus, or our children do.  Some of us can’t wear a mask due to panic attacks that come from having a covering so near the mouth.  Others can’t wear a mask due to underlying health conditions, like COPD.  Almost no one is refusing to wear a mask for no good reason.  Because there is a specter of the heavy hand of the law looming over this issue, people with legitimate health conditions that prevent mask-wearing are being discriminated against here in Las Cruces. They are being denied service, even though they cannot wear masks due to health issues. 

Comments made by the Council suggest they all think that those who oppose this ordinance are selfish, careless, or worse.  Please hear us when we say: We are not careless or selfish.  Almost all of us are wearing a mask. We care greatly about the safety and well-being of our community, our police department and all of those tasked with the enforcing of this ordinance. 

We request the Council to focus their efforts on the things that will add value to our city, not in adding additional force of law to issues that have already been addressed by our Governor at the state level.  

Your work has been hard lately.  Frustrations abound.  We acknowledge this and thank you for your continued efforts on behalf of our city.  We love this city as you do, and that is what keeps us all going.  Please vote NO to Ordinance 2929.  Thank you for your consideration.


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